Sewing with oilcloth

My lovely colleague Jan - who ordered the turquoise and purple pinny from me seen here - has asked me to make two pinnies for her 14 month year old granddaughter. She specifically asked for one of the two to be wipeable, which brings me to my latest sewing challenge...oilcloth!

Originally, I was quite apprehensive about sewing with oilcloth, but a bit of Googling has gone a long way to put my mind at ease. Although I'm still at the planning stage, I thought I'd share some of the information and tips 'veI found, for anyone else who may have had similar misconceptions. Of course if any of you are experienced oilcloth sewers, please do let me know if I've missed anything!

  • What is commonly referred to as oilcloth nowadays is actually vinyl with a mesh cotton foundation, which apparently makes it easier to sew with.
  • Oilcloth creases easily, but there are a few easy ways of getting the wrinkles out. You can leave it in a sunny area for a few hours...not so straightforward when you live in the UK! Alternatively, you can iron it on the wrong side on a low setting or gently heat it with a hair dryer.
  • You'll need to use a size 16 / DENIM needle with a poly / cotton thread.
  • Using a longer stitch will avoid leaving holes in the oilcloth, but the stitch needs to be shortened around corners or curves.
  • Sewing machine tension needs to be set at 3 for two layers of oilcloth, but for thicker areas it may need to be adjusted to 4 or more.
  • Sewing on the reverse side of the oilcloth will allow the presser foot to move smoothly. If you need to sew on the right side, you can place tissue paper between the presser foot and oilcloth, or cover the bottom of the presser foot with masking tape.
  • Oilcloth doesn't fray so the edges can be left as they are. Alternatively, you can finish them off with pinking / decorative shears or with edging / bias binding. You also hem them like regular fabric too.

I hope you find this helpful! I know I feel a bit more confident about the whole process now. I've even picked out the cutest Scotty Dog oilcloth below for the wipeable pinny. Isn't it great? For the second one I'd like to make a miniature version of Jan's pinny, so they can match when they play together!


  1. This is really useful, a few people have asked me if I can make oil cloth aprons and I've always been a bit wary so thanks for the tips Marie. I've also used that Scotty Dog fabric (mine is an upholstery weight) for aprons and cushions, it's so cute and VERY popular! x

  2. Fantastically useful. Thank you.

  3. Thank you both, glad this helps!

    Jane, I'd love to get my hands on some of this fabric in a non- oilcloth version, I can see why it's popular!!!

  4. Thanks Marie, this is really handy info as I'm planning to use oilcloth on the back of a picnic blanket.

  5. That's really useful post Marie.I have a little bit of really gorgeous Cath Kidston oilcloth that I've been given by a friend and wanted to do something with. Do you need to use a special foot for oilcloth?

  6. Wendel, as far as my research suggests, there is no special oilcloth foot. You might just need to sew on the wrong side of the fabric to make sure the foot glides, or put some thin paper between the two instead.

    Good luck to us all in our oilcloth endeavours ;o)

  7. Thank you Marie for leaving this link on my blog, It's very helpful and informative, I can't waist give oilcloth a go now!! the scotty dog fabric is lovely by the way :) xx